Friday, September 26, 2014

The Things I've Learned: We Are A Team

One of my intentions for our family is for us to be a strong and fully connected unit, a team as much as we are blood relatives.  I want my husband and children to feel that they are a part of an unstoppable team and that, together, there is nothing we can't accomplish.  We remind each other of these values often, encouraging each other, reassuring one another.

You're going to be okay because we are here for you and we'll always be here for you and we love you no matter what.

Easier said than done sometimes.  Expectations can cripple us and keep us from our true place of happiness and peace.  The need to control situations we have no control over, the desire to change a person to fit some unrealistic mold that we think they should fill.  It has taken me many years to not just understand the need for grace and compassion with my family but to practice grace and compassion with my family. To look at each member of my team as the beautiful, God given individual that they are. Each one of us was placed here with their own set of gifts, talents, and attributes for a distinct purpose.  None of this was an accident.  What one person lacks, the other soars in abundance. Because of that, we have the power to lift each other up and carry one another through the dark and difficult places. We have the joy of celebrating alongside one another through our greatest triumphs.

My children need to understand that the concept of connection and teamwork means that we are not, in fact, always treated equally.  There will be times when one person gets more attention, one will excel while the other fails, life is not always fair.  The baby gets held more, the ten year old has more activities, the toddler's discipline is a little more lenient to accommodate a challenging cognitive developmental phase.  The measure of time, privileges, and accolades is not equal to the measure of love or devotion.  It just IS.  We do what we can and what we need to do for the person when they need it, period.  There is no room for jealously or selfishness here: those are irrational emotions that weaken our spirits and take away from the beauty of what we have.  And I remind my family often: if you need more, just ask.  Don't be afraid to tell the people that you love that you need a little something extra.  There is no shame in that.  I don't always read the cues correctly and sometimes I miss out on a person's cry for more.  Show me a little compassion for THAT and just come out and tell me, in the best way you know how.

Family is the safe zone, the place you can always call home.  We should be the landing zone for each other, the reliable and the constant.  For all of the times that we will fail each other, I hope that we more than make up for in hope and love.  I hope that these two sisters and this little brother always support each other, believe in each other, and hope for the best for one another.  And I hope that they know that Shawn and I will always be here, loving them and accepting them for whoever they may be.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

14 Years

We celebrated 14 years of marriage yesterday.  There was no fancy date night out, no gifts or luxuries of any kind.  It was our normal 5:30 am wake up call, crying kids, 5th grade Social Studies, a long day at work.  But the beauty of 14 years of marriage is the deep level of intimacy intertwined in all that routine, the devoted sense of love that makes the everyday seem special and full.  14 years in and we are so comfortable with each other, so sure of who we are as individuals that our union has grown stronger, more secure, less afraid.  We have been loyal and devoted to each other since we were 19 year old kids and the reality of that has set it: there's nothing to be afraid of.  We're still here.

We have learned that marriage is a journey that requires both partners to be ALL IN.  There's no toeing the line or putting in the bare minimum: you have to go in with guns blazing and hearts on fire and be there, every single day.  It's a concept that seems so obvious when you first start out but, as time moves forward and the relationship is stretched to accommodate more people and commitments and changes, it's easy to lose sight of that "all or nothing" mentality.  But Shawn and I, well, we are fighters.  We are lovers who expect nothing but the best from each other, constantly pushing and encouraging and tough loving each other through each stage of life.  It can get ugly sometimes but there's beauty in that, too.  Because, at the end of the day, there's nothing more rewarding than the person you love believing in you, waiting for you at the finish line, being there.

14 years of marriage and I am so proud to call this man my husband.  He is a good person, a kind and forgiving man.  He is fair but firm, understanding and compassionate but not afraid to push me into the right direction when I am struggling.  This year was a year of settling down for us, enjoying the simple moments and becoming more comfortable with who we are as a couple.  He is my best friend and I enjoy every minute I get to spend with him, however rare those minutes are these days.  This is our busy young family season of life and we are appreciating it to the fullest.  "The days are long but the years are short": we constantly remind each other of that perspective. Kids in our bed, a bustling crowded kitchen, dinners around the dining room table, movie nights and dance parties: these are the moments that make life worth living.

Thank you, Shawn, for always being there for our family in the biggest way possible.  Thank you for your hard work and determination, for believing in me and the commitment we made to each other 14 years ago.  Thank you for stepping in that ring day after day, round after round, never tapping out. We stand here together, 14 years later, because we show up to work every single day.  That's something I will never take for granted.  I love you more than words could ever say.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Stitch Fix: I'm Feeling It

Six months ago, when I decided to buckle down and get really serious about getting my mind and body back into shape postpartum, I started setting small goals to encourage me along the way.  One of my goals was to revamp my very sad and outdated wardrobe.  I promised myself that if I got to a certain weight, I would sign up for this Stitch Fix service that everyone's been raving about and put some life back into my closet.  Five months of clean eating and exercise earned me my prize and I jumped on the Stitch Fix bandwagon with gusto!

What is Stitch Fix?  It's a service that sends you clothes for you to try on in the comfort of your own home based on a style profile that you create on their website!  You fill out a ton of questions about your style, your body type, and your preferences.  My style, for instance, is a mix between laid back/casual and boho.  The more specific you are about your style, the more feedback you provide about your fixes, the better.  I created a Pinterest style board that I update regularly so that my stylist can see what I'm loving/wanting/needing.  You can choose how often you receive a fix, I am currently getting mine once a month but will probably take a break during the holidays.  You can also chose your price range.  You pay a $20 styling fee which you can use toward your order if you keep any of your items.  Keep what you like, send the rest back in the included envelope.  If you keep all 5 items in your fix, you get 25% off your order.  It's so easy and convenient!

Why do I love it?  For one, it's just fun to get a box of clothes in the mail every month.  I never go shopping and rarely buy anything for myself over the kids so this has just been such a treat for me. When I do shop, it is almost always online and sending things back is such a pain.  With this service, however, sending items back is a no brainer as everything you need is included in the box.  I love the fact that the pieces are tailored to suit me specifically.  And I love that these are good quality clothes that will serve as staple pieces in my wardrobe for a really long time.

Here are a few items I've received over the last 3 months:

Daniel Rainn Blouse


This top was from my first fix.  I love how light and flowy it is.  I love that I can dress it up or down.

Skies Are Blue Top
Kensie Jeans

These are my new favorite jeans of all time.  I was very hesitant about getting jeans through an online service because I typically have to haul like 50 pairs of jeans into the dressing room with me and cry when none of them fit perfectly but these fit like a glove!!  They have the perfect amount of stretch in them and they make me feel so happy!  This top is me all the way, comfy and casual but pretty.  This is my mom on the go uniform.

Mystree Top
Just Black Pants


I really wanted a pair of black skinnies, something different from my typical jeans/cutoffs look. These are fitted and stretchy and I love the length.  I can pair these with so many different options: staple wardrobe piece for sure.  I love the pattern of this top and will pair it with a cardi when the weather gets cool.

Pixley Top
Kensie Jeans


This top is all soft grey simple in the front and then pretty pattern in the back.  I've worn this like 20 times already 20 different ways, I love it.  And there are those great Kensie jeans again!  They are so slimming!

THML Sweater
Just Black Pants


Oh how do I wish it were actually cool enough to wear long sleeves already!  This sweater is perfect for the mild winter weather we have here in Louisiana.  It's super soft and I love the detail on the neck and sleeves, it turns a simple top into something special.

Renee C. Dress

This dress is my favorite.  I love that I can wear it in the summer but then pair it with tights and boots and a cardigan for the winter.  The print is on point and the fit is perfect for me.

This is a great service and a fun way to branch out and find pretty pieces to add to your wardrobe.  Have you tried Stitch Fix?  What do you think?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Things I've Learned: Let's Just Go

I'm a self proclaimed planner, a calendar note keeper, a list maker.  Being organized is my life line, it's the only way that I can be a full time working mom and do all of the things that I WANT to do as well as the things that I NEED to do.  Keeping everything consistent and neat and tidy keeps me sane.

But, there are most definitely times when you just have to say SCREW YOU to the plans and the lists. Sometimes, you just have to go for it: jump off the edge of the proverbial cliff and just do something unexpected.  Be wild and free and spontaneous.  It feels good all the way down deep in your soul when you adventure off the beaten path, it makes you smile and laugh and feel alive again.

One Saturday this summer, after all the chores were done and the baby was down for his nap, I sat in the living room with Shawn and the girls and not a single plan in sight.

"Hey, girls.  Want to go to the lake with me?  Just the three of us?".

"You mean, like, right now?!" they asked me, confused.

"Yes, right now.  Let's go!!!".

They scrambled up the stairs so quickly that they both nearly tripped over each other.  Before I could get up and start moving, they were standing in front of me in their swimsuits with beach bags full of toys and snacks.  They were so excited and I couldn't stop laughing at how efficiently they packed up the car and loaded up their rafts and called out to me to HURRY UP, MOM!  Their mother's daughters.

We kissed Daddy goodbye and laughed when we realized that we forgot the ice chest in the garage. Who cares?  We don't need it.  I let them pick the music and then danced to Katy Perry with them as we made the drive through the big pine trees to the lake.  They had never been to this particular lake, a spot I had spent many Saturdays at with my dad when I was a little girl.  They asked me a million questions on the drive up: what does it look like?  Are there sharks there?  Can we go fishing?  Will there be lots of sand?  They were so happy, so excited, so thankful to be with me.  It was amazing.

We parked the car and made the walk down the stone steps to the clearing that overlooks the water. They literally gasped when they saw the little swimming hole I had proudly brought them to. "This is awesome!!!!!" they shrieked in their little girl voices, making a mad dash to find a spot to camp out for the rest of the day.  And camp out we did.  We played in the sand, swam for hours, enjoyed a picnic lunch, threw the football, and bonded: mommy and daughter girl time.  Something we don't get to do very often, something we should do more.  They were the happiest little girls that day, happy to see me happy.  I felt relaxed, rested, complete.  I felt like a better version of myself: not the tired, overworked, stretched too thin version of myself but joyful, easy, free.

I didn't have a watch, we just played until the sun started to set and then we played some more.  We packed up the car and hugged each other tight and called Daddy to let him know that we were headed home.  Shawn and River greeted us in the driveway with big hugs and genuine excitement to hear all about our day.  We were together again and that felt good in the way that reuniting always does.

Sounds simple, right?  Just pack up the car and go.  But it's not always that simple because we are in a very busy season of life.  So I don't spend very much time feeling guilty for not being a spontaneous super woman.  I am a super woman in many ways but being spontaneous is not my strong suit.  But some days, I can surprise myself.  And my kids, too.  I can just say screw the busy and let's just go. And those days are surely moments we will never forget.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Dusting Off My Keyboard

Our summer has been filled with sweet memories, hot and humid days that stretched far into the night, family time bustling with activity.  It has been a good few months.

There's a healthy dose of chaos mixed into our home life that I am learning to embrace.  After a long day at work, I often crave a few moments of silence at the end of the day, time to just breath and be still.  I rarely get that, however, as I am met at the door by very excited little people who want their mommy front and center.  Nurse clothes off, mom clothes on.  The volume in the house grows right along with their little feet, each child finding their voice and their style, growing into their individual personalities while still growing closer in their hearts.  It's crazy around here, in other words, and we are loving this busy season in our lives that is raising three children.

I turned 35 this summer, a birthday filled with homemade cards and a chocolate cake made by my husband and lots and lots of love.  My thirties have been good to me: I feel strong and sure of where I am going in my life and proud of what we have accomplished.  I have grown softer, not so cynical, more empathetic.  I am working on becoming a better listener and have felt my connections with people grow as a result.  We all just want to be heard, after all, and nothing makes people feel more loved than when they feel as though you are really listening to them, seeing them for who they truly are.  I get a deep sense of comfort in that feeling.

That is where I am right now: digging deeper, getting closer, finding truth in myself and in others.  I feel stripped bare at this point in my life, no bullshit, no drama, just a constant search for peace and serenity.  Each day is filled to the brim with life and love and I am focused on the here and now. With each passing year I am reminded that none of this is guaranteed, the future is a hope and a wish but by all means it is never written in stone.  Live for today and make it count: loud kids, messy house and all.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Summer 2014 Camping Adventure

We wanted to go on a nice little adventure this summer without breaking the bank, a road trip that would satisfy our wanderlust but still accommodate our little ones.  We decided on a camping trip in one of Louisiana's majestic state parks, only a couple hours away from home but plenty of opportunities to explore and experience new things.  We rented a cabin deep in the woods, all the comforts of home for the babies but still rustic and simple. My aunt and uncle and cousins came with us, renting their own cabin close to ours. We had the whole park to ourselves for the first few days as most of the other campers didn't arrive until the weekend.  It was so quiet and peaceful, the landscape so beautiful it just took my breathe away every time I walked outside.

Brees and River stuck to their typical early bird schedules, waking up at dawn and begging to go outside as soon as they opened their eyes.  We had our breakfast on the screened in porch every morning, watching for squirrels and rabbits and birds.  There is no better medicine for a working mama's soul than getting to spend uninterrupted quality time with your babies for a full week of vacation.

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We rode our bikes to the lake and went fishing all afternoon, the kids scaring the fish off more than luring them in.  We spotted a family of alligators on the other side of the lake and a couple of snakes, too. 

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We cooled off at the splash pad that was just a short bike ride away from our cabin.  

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We went on lots of great hikes, from rough terrain to landscaped boardwalks through the swamp. Our kids were such troopers, putting in literally miles that week through every trail we brought them on.  I made scavenger hunts for them on the longer hikes to keep them busy and they had a blast finding all of the random things on my list: bullfrogs, alligator eggs (we actually found some!), various wildflowers...   It was the perfect way to let them burn off all their energy!

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The kids took epic naps thanks to all of the activity and the grown ups took a few naps, too.  A true luxury! I even read a book!  And Shawn and I got to spend some nice quiet time together on the porch, just talking and drinking tea and enjoying the peaceful surroundings.  It was so relaxing and rejuvenating.

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The older cousins watched the babies for us one afternoon so that Shawn, my aunt and uncle, and I could take Isabelle and Sarah on a canoe trip.  We paddled up the Tickfaw River for several hours, one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.  The girls were so happy to have us all to themselves, a little adventure to call their own.  We spotted tons of wildlife on that canoe trip, Louisiana swamp creatures around every turn.  

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River stuck with me on a bike trail that was a couple of miles longer than I had expected.  It was rough and tough and there were some places that I had to get off the bike and push us through fallen trees and muddy waters.  We made it, though, my little buddy and I.  He is such a trooper, smiling his way through our great outdoor adventure.


On the way home, after everything was all packed up and we reluctantly said goodbye to our week in the woods, Isabelle said, "I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life!".  And you know what?  She will. It was everything that childhood should be: simple, inspiring, and stimulating.  Days full of activity, nights spent talking around the fire.  Good quality family time with no distractions.  Funny moments we'll never forget like the very big and very brave raccoon who snuck onto our porch and tried to steal our s'mores.  Or teaching Brees how to pop a squat behind a tree right as a group of boyscouts hiked right past us.  Or Shawn getting chased by a bee as we tried to take this picture but not even flinching because he didn't want to have to take the picture AGAIN.


It was an incredible trip with lifelong memories made for our family and I am so thankful for the time we were able to spend together!


Monday, July 7, 2014

July the Fourth

This fourth of July was the first fourth of July holiday in a LONG time that no one in our family was working, pregnant, having surgery, etc (knocking on every piece of wood in sight).  We were home with a beautiful, relaxing long weekend ahead of us and decided to celebrate with a BBQ for our big family.  Even the weather was in our favor, gracing us Louisianians with some VERY abnormal July temperatures in the 80's, cool breeze and all.  Shawn and I made a big meal using the overabundance of veggies we've harvested from our garden this week: quinoa pasta salad with fresh basil and broccoli, tomatoes and cucumbers with a lemon and white vinegar dressing, veggie shish kabobs with peppers, squash, and zucchini, and, of course, good ole' fashioned hamburgers and hot dogs.  There was cantaloupe and watermelon for dessert and a red velvet birthday cake for my sweet aunt.  It was such a delicious summer meal out on the back patio, everyone talking and eating and relaxing.  I feel so very proud when I am able to serve such good food right from my backyard.  There is nothing more satisfying than spending a day in the kitchen and creating such a healthy, hard earned feast.

The kids swam and played the way that kids do in the late summer evenings.  My girls basically live in their swimsuits these days.  The babies crawled around in the grass and I was so thankful to get some good quality time in with my cousins.  We set up our chairs as soon as the sun went down and prepared for an epic fireworks display courtesy of Shawn and my uncle. They completely outdid themselves this year, shooting off one beautiful firework after another as we all cheered. The girls all danced through the yard with sparklers, Isabelle screaming, "Mom, we look like fairies!!!".  We ended the night with a game of darts that lasted until well after midnight, old country songs blasting on the stereo and my stomach hurting from laughing so hard.  It was a good time with good people, the kind of gathering that makes my heart happy and full.

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